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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
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Archive for Cookies/Cake/Pastry

RECIPE: Grilled Fruit Flatbread

As long as the grill is fired up, grill your dessert!

In this recipe from McCormick, naan flatbread, an Indian staple, serves as the base for fresh fruit.

Both the bread and the fruit are grilled separately, then assembled with a yogurt sauce, chopped pistachios and a garam masala-spiced honey drizzle that continue the theme.

Grill your favorite fruit: apricot, mango, nectarine, peach, pineapple, plum or strawberry work well.

If you’re concerned about buying a bottle of spice for just one recipe, fear not:

Garam masala, which adds warm, sweet flavor, is an all-purpose seasoning for chicken, fish, lamb, potatoes, rice pilaf, even breads. Read more about it below. You may even already have the spices to blend your own (see the end of this article).

Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 10 minutes.

RECIPE: GRILLED FRUIT FLATBREAD WITH INDIAN ACCENTS

Ingredients For 4 Servings

   

Grilled_Fruit_Tart_with_Spiced_Honey_Drizzle_mccormick-230ps

A peach tart made on the grill. Photo courtesy McCormick.

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons garam masala, divided (we used McCormick Gourmet Garam Masala Blend)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey, divided
  • 1 package (8.8 ounces—2 pieces) plain naan
  • 2 ripe peaches, pitted and quartered
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (substitute vanilla yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons flaked coconut
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped pistachios (substitute sliced almonds, chopped walnuts or pecans)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX the butter, 2 teaspoons of the garam masala and 1 teaspoon of the honey in small bowl. Brush the naan and peaches with honey mixture.

    2. GRILL the naan over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes per side or until toasted. Grill the peaches 2 to 3 minutes or until grill marks appear. Slice the peaches into 1/4-inch thick slices.

    3. MIX the yogurt and coconut; spread atop each naan. Top with the sliced peaches and sprinkle with the pistachios. Mix the remaining 1 tablespoon honey and 1/4 teaspoon garam masala and drizzle over the top of the peaches. Serve warm or at room temperature.

     

    garam-masala-mccormick-230

    Garam masala, a popular Indian spice blend. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    WHAT IS GARAM MASALA

    Garam masala is an aromatic spice blend originating in northern India, but used in both northern and southern cuisines. It is like other spice blends in that the ingredients and proportions will vary somewhat by cook or manufacturer.

    Garam means hot in Hindi, and masala is a mixture of spices. The ingredients generally include black, brown and green cardamom pods; black and white peppercorns; cinnamon; clove; coriander; cumin; nutmeg and/or mace*; and turmeric.

    Other ingredients can include bay leaf, fennel seeds, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, mace, malabar leaf, mustard seed, saffron, star anise and tamarind.

    In Northern Indian cuisine, garam masala is typically used in powder form, while in Southern India it is often made into a paste with coconut milk, vinegar or water.

     

    In fine cooking, the spices are toasted and ground before use, to maintain the intensity of the flavor. But you can buy preground blends, like McCormick’s garam masala.
     
    RECIPE: GARAM MASALA

    If you want to blend your own, here’s a very simple recipe. Start with these proportions and then adjust to your particular preferences:

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander (cilantro seed)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  •  
    Store unused spices in an airtight container away from heat and light.
     
    *Nutmeg is the seed of the nutmeg tree, while the more mild mace is the dried reddish covering of the seed.

      

    Comments

    FOOD 101: Crisp, Crumble, Cobbler ~ The Difference

    peach-cobbler-zulkasugarFB-recipe-230sq

    Peach cobbler: The biscuit dough dropped
    on top resembles cobblestones. Photo
    courtesy Zulka Sugar.

     

    Do you know the difference between a cobbler, a crisp and a crumble? Have you ever had a betty, bird’s nest pudding (a.k.a. crow’s nest pudding), buckle, grunt, pandowdy or slump?

    There are many kinds of baked fruit desserts, from the simplest—cored fruits, baked or roasted—to pies and tarts, which cradle the baked fruit between one or two crusts.

    But one group of recipes gets confusing: deep dish baked fruit, made in pans or casseroles. There’s no crust, per se; but each variety is distinguished by its topping.

    These desserts can be made with any type of fruit, but are typically made with apples, berries or stone fruits—cherries, peaches, nectarines and plums.

    In observance of National Cherry Cobbler Day, May 17th, we explain the differences among the different baked fruit dishes.

    Baked in early American kitchens, these dishes were simple to make, using seasonal fruits, flour and sugar. According to What’s Cooking America, colonists often served them for breakfast, as a first course or even a main course. It was not until the late 19th century that they were served primarily as desserts.

     
    PAN-BAKED FRUIT DISHES

  • BETTY, or brown betty, alternates layers of fruit with layers of buttered bread crumbs. Some modern recipes use graham cracker crumbs.
  • BIRD’S NEST PUDDING is a bit different: A pan of fruit is covered with a batter that bakes into an uneven top with the fruit poking through. It’s served in a bowl topped with heavy cream and spices.
  • BUCKLE adds fruit, usually berries, to a single layer of batter. When baked, it becomes a cake-like layer studded with berries. It is topped with a crumb layer (streusel), which gives it a buckled appearance. Alternatively, the cake, fruit and crumbs can be made as three separate layers.
  • COBBLER has a pastry top instead of a crumb top. Biscuit pastry is dropped from a spoon, the result resembling cobblestones.
  •  

  • CRISP is a deep-dish baked fruit dessert made with a crumb or streusel topping. The crumbs can be made with bread crumbs, breakfast cereal, cookie or graham cracker crumbs, flour or nuts.
  • CROW’S NEST PUDDING is another term for bird’s nest pudding. In some recipes, the fruit is cored, the hole filled with sugar, and the fruit wrapped in pastry.
  • CRUMBLE is the British term for crisp.
  • GRUNT is a spoon pie with biscuit dough on top of stewed fruit. Stewed fruit is steamed on top of the stove, not baked in the oven. The recipe was initially an attempt to adapt the English steamed pudding to the primitive cooking equipment available the Colonies. The term “grunt” was used in Massachusetts, while other New England states called the dish a slump.
  • PANDOWDY or pan dowdy is a spoon pie made with brown sugar or molasses. It has a rolled top biscuit crust that is broken up during baking and pushed down into the fruit to allow the juices to seep up. It is believed that the name refers to its “dowdy” appearance. Sometimes it is made “upside down” with the crust on the bottom, and inverted prior to serving.
  • SLUMP is another word for grunt.
  •  

    crumble-230r

    An apple crumble. Photo courtesy Spice Islands

     
    And don’t overlook:

  • SONKER or ZONKER, a North Carolina term for a deep-dish cobbler made of fruit or sweet potato.
  •  
    As Kim Severson, writing in The New York Times about sonkers and zonkers, notes: “These dishes are so regional that people within the same county will disagree on the proper form.”

    Your family may call it a particular dish by a particular name, correct or not. But the most correct thing is: Bake fruit in season, and bake it often!

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Brownie Mortarboards

    If you’d like to make a treat for a graduate, how about brownie mortarboards*?

    These, from Sugar Bowl Bakery in Hayward, California, show you how to do it.

    1. MAKE mini round brownies in a baba pan or cut circles with a cookie cutter from a regular pan of brownies.

    2. FIND a rectangular cookie covered in chocolate. We used these, but you can bake your own shortbread or sugar cookies and dip them.

    3. DECORATE with a jelly bean and a piece of licorice whip. Use a dab of chocolate frosting to afix the garnish to the cookie.

     

    brownie-mortarboard-sugarbowlbakery-230

    Happy graduation! Photo courtesy Sugar Bowl Bakery.

     

    *A mortarboard is the square academic hat, or graduation cap, so named long ago because of its similarity in appearance to the plasterer’s tool used to hold mortar.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Easiest Cupcake Garnishes

    candy-garnish-cupcakes-sweetstreetdesserts-230

    Easy Mother’s Day cupcakes. Photo courtesy Sweet Street Desserts.

     

    If you still haven’t settled on a dessert for Mother’s Day, here’s the easy way out.

    You can make cupcakes like these, from SweetStreetDesserts.com, simply by purchasing plain cupcakes and topping them with a large piece of candy.

    Instead of sprinkles, the idea is to have one chocolate “centerpiece” to top the cupcake. Consider:

  • Baci
  • Bonbons
  • Chocolate-coverd cherries
  • Chocolate disks
  • Hershey Kisses (unwrapped)
  • Non-pareils
  • Toffee or brittle (large piece)
  •  

    Of course, you can bake your own cupcakes from scratch or a mix. But with this concept, the busiest dad or young child can “make cupcakes” for Mom.

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Decorated Macaron

    violet-macaron-w-flowers-culinaryvegetableinstitute-230

    Almost too pretty to eat. Photo courtesy Culinary Vegetable Institute.

     

    Here’s something easy for Mother’s Day: a dessert or tea snack consisting of a single macaron, beautifully decorated.

    It’s from the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Ohio, where farmers grow the most glorious produce and chefs create wondrous dishes with it.

    You can create this macaron at home, either as a light dessert or as one of a number of dessert courses.

    Serve it with a cup of tea or a glass of sparkling wine. For birthdays, add a candle for the honoree.

    RECIPE: MACARON WITH FLOWERS

    Ingredients

  • Macarons
  • Edible flowers
  • Sanding sugar
  • Vanilla frosting
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PURCHASE or make macarons, ideally in a bright color for visual appeal.

    2. PLACE the macaron on its side, using a dab of frosting to affix it to the plate and keep it from rolling. While we don’t like canned frosting, in this case its thickness works to adhere the macaron.

    SPRINKLE the plate with sanding sugar in a complementary color. It’s typically available in pastels: blue, green, lavender, pink and yellow.

    3. PLACE the flower near the top.

    4. SCATTER the sanding sugar on the plate.

     
      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Carla Hall Petite Cookies

    Most fans of “Top Chef” Chef love Carla Hall, a finalist on her season and a subsequent Top Chef All Star, winning the “Fan Favorite” award.

    She went on to become a cohost on “The Chew” and to start Carla Hall Petite Cookies, an artisan cookie company that specializes in teeny cookies.

    A brilliant idea for people who need just a bite, the cookies are either half-inch cubes or one-inch drop cookies, depending on the nature of the dough.

    They’re meant to pair “boldly and beautifully,” according to Carla, with beer, wine, tea and coffee.

    For home, entertaining and gifting, we’ve been charmed by these little cookies. Made in small batches, every step from mixing the dough to packaging is done by hand.

    Of course, only the finest ingredients are used: European-style butter, unbleached sugar and flour, couverture chocolate, artisan cheeses, fresh nuts, premium spices and, says Carla of her most important ingredient: love.

    Focusing on familiar flavors with a twist, choices include:

       

    Harissa Spiced Nuts and Cookies

    Mexican Chocolate Chip Cookies, teeny bites of heaven. Carla Hall Petite Cookies.

     
    Petite Cookies

  • Almond Ginger Cherry Shortbread
  • Black Forest Crinkle (our favorite, a cherry-chocolate delight)
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Praline
  • Mexican Chocolate Chip
  • Lemon Black Pepper Shortbread
  • Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate
  • Pecan Shortbread with Vanilla Salt
  •  
    There’s one savory option:

  • Cheddar Pecan
  •  
    There are also cakes and regular-size cookies (including the best Magic bar we’ve ever had):

  • Cakes: Apple Walnut Bread, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cinnamon Tea Cake, Lemon-Glazed Five Flavor Pound Cake, Salted Caramel Banana Bread
  • Cookies: Magic Bar, Oatmeal Cookie Sandwich, Triple Layer Cookie Bar
  •  

    gift-box-230

    A gift box for any cookie lover. Photo courtesy Carla Hall Petite Cookies.

     

    WHAT SHOULD YOU GET?

    Most definitely, the Sweet Collection Gift Box, which includes six of the seven varieties of sweet petites. It’s $25.00; there’s a smaller box with three varieties for $12.50.

    If you want to include a signed copy of Carla’s cookbook, Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World—you can add it to the Sweet Collection gift box for a total of $45.00.

    There are other gift options, other goodies, and of course, you can buy individual packages of whatever you like.

    Head to CarlaHall.com to get yours.

    Or, find a retailer near you.

     

    CARLA HALL TRIVIA

    Fans of Top Chef may remember that Carla spent several years working as a model on the runways of Paris, Milan and London. It was in Paris that she fell in love with the art of food.

    But what most people don’t know is that before heading to Europe, Carla spent two years as a CPA at Price Waterhouse.

    When she returned from Europe, she attended L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland where she completed her culinary training and began her career as a professional chef.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Coffee Shortbread Cookies

    coffee-shortbread-tasteofhome-230

    Coffee shortbread with a chocolate glaze to pair with a fine cup of java. Photo courtesy Taste Of Home.

     

    As a gift for your favorite coffee-loving moms, bake coffee-flavored shortbread. These are made even more special with a double chocolate drizzle.

    The recipe, from Taste of Home, is easy to make. Prep time is 15 minutes, bake time is 20 minutes per batch plus cooling.

    RECIPE: COFFEE SHORTBREAD COOKIES

    Ingredients For 60 Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white baking chips, melted (substitute chopped white chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted (substitute chopped semisweet chocolate)
  • 2 teaspoons shortening, divided
  • Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 300°F. Cream the butter, sugars and coffee granules in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

    2. COMBINE the flour and salt in another bowl; gradually add to the creamed mixture.

    3. ROLL the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out the cookies with floured 2-inch to 3-inch cookie cutters.

    4. PLACE the cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 300°F for 20-22 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool.

    5. MAKE the chocolate drizzles. In a microwave, melt the white chocolate with 1 teaspoon shortening; stir until smooth. Repeat with the semisweet chocolate and remaining shortening. Drizzle over the cookies.

    6. REFRIGERATE until set. Store the cookies between pieces of waxed paper in an airtight container.
     
      

    Comments

    GIFT: Cake In A Jar

    When you can’t be there to bake a cake, send a cake in a jar. Jar’d Cake from one of our favorite bakers, Cake Chicago, offers four delicious varieties to send as a Mother’s Day gift, or give as party favors.

    Everything at Cake Chicago is made from scratch, including the raspberry conserve a nd salted caramel.

    Choose from:

  • White Buttermilk Cake with raspberry conserve and italian meringue buttercream
  • Chocolate fudge cake with salted caramel filling
  • Carrot cake with cream cheese filling (spiced carrot cake, no raisins or nuts)
  • Banana cake with fudge filling
  •  
    Tied with grossgrain ribbon, the jars are $7.00 each, with a 2 jar minimum.

     

    cake-in-a-jar-closed-chicagocake-230

    Moist, delicious Jar’d Cake. Photo courtesy Cake Chicago.

     

    Get yours at Cake-Chicago.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Layer Cake

    chocolate-layer-chocolate-pearls-sweetstreetdesserts-230

    You can make this at home, topped with Callebaut Crispearls. Photo courtesy Sweet Street Desserts.

     

    Nothing says love like a homemade cake: for birthdays, Mother’s/Father’s Day, graduation or or other special occasion. Whether you use a cake mix or measure from scratch, it’s fun to bake a cake.

    And it’s very much appreciated by the honoree. Our friend Beth’s children, ages 7 and 10, know enough to appreciate mom’s homemade birthday cakes to store-bought options.

    Over the years, many people have asked our opinion on cake mixes. Here it is:

    Essentially, a cake mix saves you the time and mess of measuring the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, etc. It also includes the flavorings—vanilla, orange, whatever. People who don’t like measuring should reach for the box.

    What we personally don’t like is using oil instead of butter. Others may not notice; but if it doesn’t taste buttery, we don’t want to spend our cake and cookie calories.

     
    And of course, a from-scratch recipe that’s enhanced with buttermilk, cream cheese, sour cream, fresh citrus juice or zest, and so on will be better tasting.

    CAKE MIX YES, CANNED FROSTNG NO!

    We totally avoid the canned frostings most people buy to go along with a cake mix. To borrow a line from Snapple, most canned frosting is not made from “the best stuff on Earth.” Here are the ingredients to Betty Crocker’s Rich & Creamy Vanilla Frosting:

    Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Water, Wheat Starch, High Maltose Corn Syrup, Contain 1% or Less of Salt, Distilled Monoglycerides, Colored with Artificial Color, Yellows 5 & 6, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid, Nonfat Milk, Freshness Preserved by Potassium Sorbate

    Why eat cottonseed oil and corn syrup, when in 10 minutes you can make real buttercream, which tastes great?

    All you need is a stick of butter, a cup of confectioners’ sugar, 1/4 cup whole milk and the flavoring of your choice: 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 4 ounces chocolate or 1 teaspoon instant coffee. Just blend them together and ice away. The toughest part is waiting for the butter to soften!

    Here’s the full recipe.

     

    IT’S EASY TO DECORATE

    A special occasion deserves a festive garnish. You can turn a homemade or store-bought layer cake into something special with a simple sprinkle of edible cake decorations.

    In addition to chocolate chips (or other flavors), homemade chocolate curls (scrape a chocolate bar with a vegetable peeler), coconut and candies, there are:

  • Bright-colored or pastel confetti
  • Callebaut Crispirls, chocolate-covered cereal balls in dark, milk and white chocolate
  • Dragées in single colors, multicolor “Harlequin,” gold and silver
  • Gold glitter stars
  • Sugar pearls, in white, pastels, multicolor and metallics
  • White pearl shimmers
  •  
    If you live near a baking supplies store, go browsing. Otherwise, browse online until you find your ideal decorations.

     

    harlequin-dragees-culpitt-amz-230

    Sprinkle festive decorations atop your cake. Photo courtesy Wilton.

     

    Here’s an article about the different types of cake decorations.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Margarita Chile Cheesecake Bars

    You can make this recipe in a baking pan and cut traditional bars, or make them in individual glass ramekins, jars or custard cups for an especially nice presentation.

    The recipe is from Melissa’s The Great Pepper Cookbook, the ultimate guide to choosing and cooking with peppers.

    RECIPE: MARGARITA CHILE CHEESECAKE BARS

    Ingredients For 16 Bars Or 8 Four-Ounce Custard Cups/Jars

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) salted butter, chopped
  • 6 dried cascabel chile peppers (about 1/2 cup), stems and seeds removed, ground
  • 3/4 cup non-alcoholic Margarita cocktail mix
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons lime zest
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • Garnishes: whipped cream, lime wheels or peel curls, dash of ground cascabel chile
  •    

    margarita-cheesecake-cups-melissas-230

    Margarita Chile Cheesecake for Cinco de MayoPhoto courtesy Melissa’s.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Place the graham cracker crumbs, butter and chile in a food processor; pulse until coarse and crumbly, about 2 minutes.

    2. TRANSFER the graham cracker mixture to a 13 x 9-inch baking dish and press to evenly cover the bottom of dish. Bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Cool.

    3. COMBINE the Margarita mix in a bowl combine with the sugar, cornstarch, zest and cream cheese. Whisk in the eggs until completely incorporated. Pour over the crust; bake until top browns slightly, about 30 minutes.

    4. COOL completely in the pan and cut into 16 bars, Top with whipped cream, lime wheels or peel curls and extra ground chile.

    To Make In Ramekins Or Jars

    You can make eight individual four-ounce portions.

    1. MAKE the crust as instructed above. Place 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of crust in each jar and press down. Do not pre-bake.

    2. MAKE the filling as instructed above, but fill each jar leaving a 1/2 inch space from the top.

    3. PLACE the jars on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until set. Remove from the oven, cool completely and top with the garnishes.

     

    cascabel-230

    Cascabel chiles. Photo courtesy Angelina’s Gourmet.

     

    ABOUT CASCABEL CHILES

    Cascabels are large round chiles, which ripen to a bright red, dark red or brownish red. It has moderate heat.

    The name means “rattle,” which refers to the sound the seeds make when a dried chile is shaken, as well as the round shape.

    You can substitue ancho, chipotle or guajillo chiles.

    Check out the different chile types in our Chile Glossary

     

      

    Comments

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